Peak(s):  Sniktau, Mt  -  13,234 feet
"Cupid"  -  13,117 feet
Grizzly Pk D  -  13,427 feet
Date Posted:  02/02/2020
Date Climbed:   02/01/2020
Author:  daway8
 Winter 13er Trio: Sniktau, Cupid, Grizzly  

This is a beautiful, popular and fairly straightforward route with just a few little things worth pulling together for anyone thinking about doing it. I had originally planned to extend this on out to include Grays and Torreys but that just didn’t happen.

Included in this report you’ll find:

  • Some notes on the limited Loveland Pass parking
  • Advantages/disadvantage of this route vs. other approaches to Grays and Torreys
  • Lots of sunrise photos
  • Some random thoughts on the route
  • My times and GPS tracks
20016_02
Sunrise coming up from Loveland Pass

Grays/Torreys West Ridge Approach from Loveland Pass

The above is probably what this trip report would have been called if I had accomplished my original goal. One main advantage of this route is that you avoid the avalanche hazards on the standard routes plus, if you’re into summiting multiple peaks, this route allows you to get two or three 13ers on the way there.

The downside is that there is a LOT of up/down elevation gain that you experience not just on the way to the summit, but repeatedly throughout the day as you come back over peaks.

This is a very doable route but I stopped short of G/T because:

  1. I got moving too slow in the morning
  2. The wind was MUCH stronger than I expected
  3. Having just spent a week and half in Haiti I just wasn’t quite up to adding a few more ups and downs on the route.

As is, I got back to the Jeep a little before 3pm so I probably could have squeezed G/T in but I would have likely had to finish by headlamp and since winds often pick up towards sundown I didn’t feel like trying to finish in dark while fighting to stay on my feet (the wind eased off for parts of the day but I was worried it would return with a vengeance - which it somewhat did even by the time I did get back).

But doing the whole route would be a fantastic conditioning hike, especially if you throw Sniktau in for bonus points.


Loveland Pass

I’m actually not sure if I’ve been up to Loveland Pass before, so driving up there in the dark on a winding snow covered road with occasional blasts of snow creating momentary mini-whiteouts was slightly uncomfortable but I didn’t have any issues. By afternoon the road was clear.

20016_37
They aren't kidding about avalanche blasting at any time - heard explosions throughout the day.

The wind, however, was really ripping! Enough that my Jeep was rocking back and forth and when I opened the door I was worried it might get ripped off. I had to struggle to get it closed again. Then I pulled out and backed into the spot at which point it was a bit of a struggle to get out of the Jeep because the wind was pushing the door closed.

I sat in the parking lot for over half an hour debating about whether or not to go ahead with the hike. There were multiple other people also sitting in their vehicles though I eventually saw one intrepid person trek up the mountain with a headlamp on. Later, when I checked some wind station information I saw reports of gusts near 50mph - I would have guessed higher myself.

I finally decided, after stepping out to test the winds a time or two and chat with some other people in the lot, that I would go up Mount Sniktau so I could at least get some conditioning/exercise. Originally it was going to be a bonus peak that I would have considered adding on if I still had energy left after getting back from Grays/Torreys. Now, the wind had made it my primary objective.

Note that the parking at Loveland Pass is somewhat limited and was already full by about 6:30am. There were some spots of snow drifts which might possibly have provided additional parking at other times of the year but I’m guessing there was room for maybe 2 dozen cars there that day – and there was LOTS of ski traffic around as the day went on.


Sunrise Photos

Occasionally you get up before sunrise and due to a lack of clouds or because you're down in a valley on the wrong side of the mountain or whatever, you just don't get much of a show for sunrise. Then there are days like this where you can't stop looking and clicking...

20016_01
Sunrise photos
20016_03
Sunrise photos
20016_04
Sunrise photos
20016_05
Sunrise photos
20016_06
Sunrise photos
20016_07
Sunrise photos
20016_08
Sunrise photos
20016_09
Sunrise photos

Trudging up the hill to gain the ridgeline would have probably been just somewhat tedious if not for the great light show but once you gain the ridge you're rewarded with lots of excellent views for the remainder of the day.

20016_10
Some of the first good views of Grays and Torreys in the distance.

I'm not sure which was slowing me down more for the start of this hike - the wind or the views!

20016_11
Looking over at Grays and Torreys after gaining the ridge.
20016_15
Same shot, different location - I believe this was from Mount Sniktau with bluegrassclimber at the edge of the photo. You can see Cupid to his left, then a hump, then Grizzly, then Torreys with Grays pretty much hidden.


Mount Sniktau

If Grays and Torreys are your goal I would skip this peak to begin with and save it for the end of the day if you still have energy left. Alternately, at a mere 3.7 miles round trip from Loveland Pass, this is one of the easiest winter peaks you can do as a warm-up and can probably even handle it on bad weather days, so long as U.S. 6 from I70 isn't closed by drifting snow.

20016_12
bluegrassclimber on his way to Mount Sniktau. Note cornices on the leeward (east) side.
20016_13
bluegrassclimber getting closer to Mount Sniktau.

The trek to Mount Sniktau is pretty easy. Bill specs it at 3.7mi RT with 1,800 feet of gain. This includes dropping down a bit from the top of the pass then gaining another point over 13k before dropping down again in front of Mount Sniktau. Not enough to make it overly challenging but just enough that if you were to do it as a standalone you could still feel like you did some actual climbing - especially if you do it while fighting major winds (which I understand are fairly common here).

You'll note there are some significant cornices along the leeward (east) side of the ridge but you can easily avoid that danger by staying just a bit to the windward side of the slope. The same thing was pretty much true throughout the day along the route to all the peaks.

20016_14
Getting closer to Sniktau.


Cupid

After I made it back to the top of the pass I parted ways with bluegrassclimber and went on solo to Cupid and Grizzly (apparently there are quite a few Grizzly Peaks in the state - this one is Grizzly Peak D).

Cupid, much like Sniktau, is another shoe-in requiring fairly minimal effort and is another great winter warm-up hike with no real route finding or difficult terrain but it does have some excellent views of Grays and Torreys and the surrounding region. Cupid itself isn't all that photogenic - scroll back up to the last panorama if you want to see one of the few photos I took of it.


Grizzly Peak D

Just beyond Cupid is where the route starts to get slightly more interesting by comparison. Sniktau and Cupid could almost be done blindfolded in flip flops (not that I would recommend that) but just beyond Cupid is one small section that demands slightly more attention.

20016_16
View of the hump beyond Cupid followed by Grizzly further on to the left and Torreys and Grays towards the far left.
20016_17
Closer to the hump on the way to Grizzly Peak D. The rocks ahead present the first "challenge" of the trip.

There's a clump of jagged rocks just beyond Cupid which catch your eye from a distance and get your mind wondering how to approach it. On the left (east) is a major load of snow dumped by the wind which you generally probably want to avoid unless you're very confident it's stable. To the right (west) are a bunch of wind blown rocks of questionable looking stability.

As you first come up to the rocks from straight on it looks like you might be approaching somewhat of a cliff. After all the easy walk-in-the-park strolling along the rest of the route this is a bit of an attention getter. But it turns out to be fairly easy to just go right over the top and down the far side. I think you might marginally call this class 3, depending on what exact line/moves you make but you can most likely keep it class 2 if you pick your path carefully.

20016_18
At the top of the slightly gnarly rock section on the way to the hump in front of Grizzly (stands out mostly due to how tame the rest of the route is).
20016_19
Looking back up at the rock section descended. Right side (east) is snow covered. Left (west) very rocky.

There is another rocky spot or two after this but they're even easier to deal with.

20016_20
More rocks past Cupid - skirt easily on the right.
20016_21
Heading on to the point in front of Grizzly.

There's a notable hump midway between Cupid and Grizzly and once on top of it you'll see the most intimidating climb of the day so far. Once again, lots of cornices on the leeward (NE) side that you want to stay off of but just stay on the ridge or slightly to the windward side and you're fine.

20016_22
Past the main hump on the way to Grizzly.
20016_23
Dropping down to the last saddle before Grizzly as some others were coming up from the opposite direction.

It did get a bit more icy in this section as compared to other parts of the trail so I finally put on microspikes here.

20016_24
Looking back at some of the wind cornices.
20016_25
One of the more rocky sections going up to Grizzly.


Grays and Torreys - not this time...

20016_26
Looking back at the cornices leading up to Grizzly.
20016_27
Taken near the summit of Grizzly looking over at Torreys (left) and Grays (right). Tantalizingly close in appearance...

Upon getting up to Grizzly just prior to noon I was faced with the decision of whether or not to continue on to my original goal of Grays and Torreys. Visually they looked so close and tempting but on the map I could see that I'd have to repeat about the same distance from the pass to Grizzly in order to get over to G/T and there were some non-trivial ups and downs along the way.

Fitness-wise I was feeling ok to keep going.

Time-wise I calculated that at the pace I had been going it would probably be after dark before I would get back to the Jeep if I continued on.

Weather-wise I was worried that the winds, which had somewhat abated during at least parts of the day, would potentially redouble as sunset approached.

So ultimately I decided an early, easy finish was the way to go for that day. I had just got back from a week and a half at sea level (in Haiti) so I didn't want to put too severe of a test on how quickly my body adapts.

My consolation prize: hot chocolate in my GSI Microlite thermos - oh how wonderful steaming hot chocolate is on top of a cold mountain!!!


20016_28
A couple more random views just for fun...
20016_29
This is the ridge stretching south from Grizzly - looks like it could be a fun climb in summer...

There's some fun looking terrain in this area - maybe someday the ridge stretching south from Grizzly (see photo above) might make an interesting route to explore...

20016_30
Another view of some wind cornices on the way back.
20016_31
The one steep snow section descended on the way to Grizzly - seen here on the way back. Exposure is very limited despite appearances.

I saw a good size group of mountain goats on the way back up Cupid. They ran as soon as I got anywhere near them. For a brief little bit I tried to track them to get a better photo (thus my tracks diverging off towards the ridge coming off the NW of Cupid) but soon gave up.

20016_32
Mountain goats just visible at the top of the photo.
20016_33
On the top left horizon you can barely make out a group of mountain goats sprinting away from me. This was as close as I got.

So all in all, despite not getting my snowflakes for Grays and Torreys yet, this was a very enjoyable hike that helped me get back into shape for hopefully more peaks to come.

My stats:

Total RT length ~7.2 miles.

Total elevation gain ~3,800.

6:15am arrive at Loveland Pass - wind blowing like crazy

6:50am after debating, stepping out, chatting with folks, etc finally decided to go for Sniktau.

~20 after 7 start hiking again after lots of stops for sunrise photos.

8:53am Summit of Sniktau after lengthy stop fighting with my gear (had to add more layers than expected and got my hoods/googles/etc tangled up).

9:30am back at top of ridge above Loveland Pass.

10:10am Cupid summit.

10:20am first LOUD explosion noted (presumably avalanche blasting - it sounded disturbingly close but I never saw exactly where it was).

10:31am another LOUD explosion.

10:41am and another LOUD explosion (someone call the artillery base and tell them to hold their fire!!). Gave up counting after this but continued to hear explosions on/off thru the day.

11:04am top of hump before last main drop in front of Grizzly.

11:15am start up from base of the saddle below Grizzly.

11:55am summit of Grizzly.

12:11pm After doing the math I decide not to go on for Grays and Torreys. Instead enjoy my hot chocolate on the summit of Grizzly.

12:24pm head back.

12:43pm base of the saddle.

1:14pm base of the saddle on the far side of the hump between Grizzly/Cupid, just before the 'gnarly' rock section.

1:57pm summit of Cupid.

2:14pm base of final saddle.

2:53pm back at the Jeep.





My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37


 Comments or Questions
CaptCO

Great report!
02/03/2020 09:02
Very thorough with amazing pictures! That sunrise looked incredible, I might have to try this sometime.


Jay521

What CaptCO said....
02/03/2020 11:47
A very well written report with fantastic pictures. Your TR's are always thorough and this is no exception. I have done that route a few times but your pictures make it look so much better than I remember. Thanks for this!


Tornadoman

Always windy!
02/03/2020 17:20
Have been up Sniktau a slew of times, and over to Cupid/Grizzly a couple. The last time I went to Grizz was planning on continuing the traverse to Torreys and Grays but was too windy for my tastes. I am convinced that it is always windy up there in winter, so I will just have to suck it up some time and do that long ridge run!


bluegrassclimber

I just realized...
02/21/2020 22:01
You tagged me in these photos. Great meeting you up there and thanks for sharing a well done TR!



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